What Should I Expect on the Day of Surgery?
Cataract Surgery Day: Why do I need someone to drive me home after surgery?
You will require a driver on cataract surgery day. You will be receiving medications for sedation during the procedure and will not be able to operate a motor vehicle safely until the effects of these medications wear off in a few hours. You may feel normal and safe to drive, but for your safety and the safety of those around you, it is best to have the assistance of another driver on the day of surgery. If you arrive at the surgery center without a driver, your surgery may be canceled. If you run into difficulties finding a friend, neighbor, or family member who can drive you on your surgery day, please call our surgery scheduler. There are often community resources available that could help you get the required transportation.
How early should I arrive at the surgery center and what should I bring and wear?
On cataract surgery day, plan to arrive at the surgery center at the time indicated by your surgery scheduler. This is usually one hour prior to your scheduled surgery time. This will provide the staff enough time for checking you in and getting you prepared for the surgery. Please bathe or shower in the evening or the morning of your surgery. Avoid wearing makeup. Do not bring jewelry or valuables if possible. Wear comfortable loose-fitting clothes. Bring your eye medications so the nurses can confirm that you have the correct bottles.
What happens before my cataract surgery?
When you arrive at the surgery center you will have some paperwork to fill out. Any co-pays or deductibles related to the surgery will also be collected. Please remember to bring a credit card or check book to the surgery center. Several things happen in the pre-operative area. This is where you will be prepared to have your surgery done. Your vital signs (blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, temperature) will be checked by a nurse. An IV line may be inserted to allow sedating medications to be administered before and during the procedure. You will also be given eye drops to help dilate your pupil to allow the surgeon a good view of the cataract. Other eye drops anesthetize the eye so you do not feel pain during the procedure. The nurses will have you lay on a bed where you can relax while you are waiting for your surgery appointment.
What can I expect during my cataract surgery?
In the operating room, you will first be positioned properly for surgery. This is lying comfortably on your back with a small cushion under your head and neck. The anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will begin administering the relaxing medicines through your IV to help you feel comfortable. The perfect amount of sedation will make you comfortable but not asleep. Patients who get too much sedation can become confused and wake up suddenly with dangerous movements that could cause problems with the procedure. Therefore, we want you relaxed but not completely asleep. If you have a high level of anxiety, please share this with the anesthesiologist. In this case extra medications can be given. A nurse will then cleanse the skin around the eye with an antiseptic (Povidone iodine). After this is done, you will be covered with a sterile drape which covers your face and upper body. This can be a little claustrophobic but the drape is very light and there is plenty of air underneath. If you need to cough or clear your throat after the surgery has started, let your surgeon know before doing so.
A small wire (speculum) is used to keep your eye open during the surgery. You don’t have to worry about blinking because the speculum will hold your eye open. It is best for you to keep both eyes open during the procedure. Once the speculum is placed, your primary responsibility is to look straight ahead at the bright microscope lights at all times. This places your eye in the perfect position for the surgeon. The best way to avoid pain is to keep both of your eyes open and relaxed.
During the surgery, you will see bright lights. Some patients describe a kaleidoscope with lots of vibrant and beautiful colors. You may feel a pressure sensation as the cataract is removed and the new lens implant is inserted into your eye. You should not feel any sharp pain. If you experience pain, let your surgeon know and more medication can be given to help relieve the pain. This medication may burn slightly when it is given, but your eye will be numb in a few seconds. You will hear the buzz of the instrument used to break up the cataract and you may feel cool water on your face. These are all normal aspects of the surgery. A typical cataract surgery takes between 10 and 20 minutes. It usually done before you know it.
What happens in recovery?
In the recovery area, the nursing staff will make sure you are stable before releasing you to your designated responsible party. You can have a drink and a little snack. They will also go over important information, including how to use your eye drops and what to do in the event of an emergency. Because you may still be sleepy, it is helpful to have another adult available to listen to the instructions. We will do all we can to make your cataract surgery day a smooth and gentle experience.